State health officials says three types of flu have been identified in the state. State medical director, Patricia Quinlisk, says the types of flu are familiar ones. “One of them is the H1N1, this is the one that came to Iowa in 2009 and caused the pandemic and all the kids in the schools to get so sick,” Quinlisk explains. “The next one that we’ve have confirmed here in Iowa is what’s called the H3N2 — which is the regular seasonal flu — this is the one that’s been around for years. And then one of them is an influenza B.” She says they don’t know exactly what type of flu the one labeled B is yet.
Dr. Quinlisk says the number of flu cases in Iowa is low right now and it’s a good time to take precautions against it. “We know that if you get one of them, it does not give you immunity to the other two. Which means that this year — if you don’t get vaccinated — you could get the flu three different times,” Quinlisk says.
Many people got the H1N1 flu in the 2009 outbreak, but Quinlisk says that was long enough ago that you likely don’t have any protection remaining. “If you got really sick in 2009 you might have a little bit of immunity left. Whatever immunity you had may not be enough to stop you from getting ill, may not be enough to stop you from being hospitalized if you get it,” Quinlisk says.
The immunity from a flu shot begins immediately, and Quinlisk says you are fully protected after a week or two. “Whether it takes you a week to two weeks depends a little bit on your own immune system — how fast it can respond — and how much experience it has had with influenza before or whether you’ve been vaccinated,” according to Quinlisk.
The Health Department estimates an average of 300,000 Iowans get the flu every year, and that can lead to more problems. “We know that once you have the flu, you are more susceptible in the next couple of weeks to basically anything else that comes along,” Quinlisk says. She says the next thing to come along is often pneumonia, and complications due to pneumonia are among the top 10 causes of death in Iowa. The flu shot is recommended for anyone six months and older.
Quinlisk says there are some new ways to get the vaccine now available.”There’s a vaccine now for people who have allergies to eggs. There’s different kinds of vaccines. There’s shots, there ones they inject with a little teeny tiny needle — there’s ones you can squirt up your nose,” Quinlisk says. She says there is plenty of the flu vaccine available.
For more information on the flu, go to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website at: www.idph.state.ia.us. You can contact your health care provider or local health department to find out where the vaccine is available in your community or use the Flu Vaccine Finder at: www.flu.gov.